Part 18: Chapter Eight - Part 3Chapter Eight Part 3
Artemiy still had to share the Town's bloody secret with Aglaya. Perhaps, she will have any ideas on how to coax the blood from the Elder without going through excessive trials, although Artemiy didn't hold his breath in that regard.
Oyun was an exceedingly foolhardy fellow with a deep distrust and hostility towards Artemiy whatever strings the Inquisitor or anyone else, for that matter could pull wouldn't amount to much.
Leaving the station, Artemiy found yet another letter in his pocket. For some reason, this particular one felt heavier than any other of today's correspondence.
Dear Master Burakh!
Surely, you must already know that certain fatal changes have occurred in the family of Vladislav Olgimsky, who has been your protector and an esteemed friend of your late father. As a result of a cunning plot, the head of the Olgimsky family has agreed to submit himself to the mercy of an enraged mob of butchers that would, until recently, tremble at the mere mention of the name of Boos Vlad!
I must emphatically ask that you set aside some time to visit the Horns. I possess information that can save the life of a man whose hospitality you could, until recently, always rely on.
The letter reeked of false niceties and of an attempt to set yet another plot in motion, but if what Georgiy wrote was true, then Vlad Sr.'s life could very well be in danger and Artemiy would probably like to preserve the life of one of his biggest patrons in this wretched Town.
Georgiy's home was just across the street from the Cathedral, but Artemiy's business with Aglaya was a fair bit more pressing. Artemiy decided to settle the matter of the blood first.
Even though I'm glad that you're here, you shouldn't visit me too often.
Don't worry. I've been to the Abattoir, though the knowledge that I've found in there is rather hard to accept, especially if one isn't prepared for it.
I'd say that I'm prepared well enough. I'm well-versed in the mythology of your people. I know the ways of this land. Tell me what you've found out in the Abattoir. Tell me where the blood came from. I'll believe any fantastical news that you'll have for me especially if they fit my prior knowledge and estimations.
The earth upon which this Town is built is riddled with tunnels. They go all the way up to river Gorhon. The blood from the Order's rituals has been emptied into those tunnels for many hundreds of years.
The knowledge that shook Artemiy just an hour prior was accepted by Aglaya in a very brisk manner.
You haven't surprised me. I've read about this while I was preparing for this trip. Moreover, I can tell you that there are similar cults that exist among other groups of people. All of them belong to various ethnic groups. There are even some northerners among them...
Aglaya was talking about the world outside of Town the world that has been forgotten by Artemiy for the time being.
This blood is warm. It is alive. This means that the Town is feeding it and, in the same way, it feeds the Town. This fact is entirely unexplainable, you know does it fit with your knowledge and estimation?
Aglaya's interest was certainly piqued now!
Oh my... I would say that it does fit my estimations... Come to think of it, it fits the knowledge I have, as well... So that is why they are loathe to dig any wells... That is why the rivers are so shallow and the water in Gorhon is so transparent... Indeed you've impressed me, but I'm not shocked. I was ready for something fantastical, even if I was expecting a... different outcome.
What sort of outcome did you expect?
Well, it's quite boring, actually. I thought that the Elder has a living aurox tucked away somewhere... They could've taken the blood from him... We could've made several thousand helpings of Panacea from him it would've been enough for those who are still alive. They are quite large, these auroxes almost akin to brontosaurs, or so I've heard...
Brontosaurs? What are those?
Aglaya chuckled at Artemiy's lack of worldliness, but the laugh was gentle.
Hold on to that thought even if it could be interesting as a discussion of a natural phenomenon, it would mean something entirely different from you. We'll discuss it later. The important thing is that the blood is circulating within the Town and is feeding it. This means that the Town is alive. A living being. That is your Marked one. It fits, isn't it? The scope of it all seems to fit, at the very least. What does the word Udurg mean?
The body that contains the world within itself.
Artemiy had to admit that her notion was quite persuasive.
I'm merely interpreting Isidore's words. I've got it written down right here he knew that the Marked One was in danger. He knew that only a miracle could save its life. He knew that we would need proverbial rivers of panacea to save it. Finally, he decided to challenge the Elder and assume his lawful position at the head of the Order, in order to get closer to the heart of the Udurg.
Her words made a lot of sense, but they also revealed the fact that she was privy to various excerpts of the diary of Isidore that Artemiy has been receiving over the last couple of days. It's quite interesting that they've found their way into Aglaya's possession. Artemiy didn't think too much of it, though.
Indeed your reasoning seems sound...
Well, my point of view on this is entirely different. I'm guessing, though, that this was Isidore's reasoning. He marked that which has no name. It would be silly to include a superbeing into a list of one's patients. I imagine that even he couldn't make heads or tails of that particular fact.
This does seem like my father's approach, yes. If we look at things from his point of view, then this conclusion seems rather probable...
Whose blood is it?
It seems that my search is over. Udurg, the body that contains the world within itself, a living being that my father has sworn to protect is the settlement that is nurtured by the Bull Projects. The Town. Well, isn't that an answer... One thing makes me doubtful, though... What sort of sacrifice needs to be carried out in order to be equal to the One-Sought-For?
Once again, Aglaya has patiently led Artemiy to an answer, though it wasn't her own answer. What are her actual thoughts on the matter? She wouldn't answer she had other matters to attend to and seemed to be done with Artemiy for the day. The Haruspex had nothing to do but go on to meet Georgiy Kain.
Georgiy's house was left-most of the three-house compound of Kains. It did not look at all different from the other two houses.
The interior looked very much akin to the interior of the other Kain houses. A certain mixture of elegance and decadence.
Georgiy was patiently waiting for him, though there was a hint of giddiness to this old and respectable gentleman.
It's good that you've decided to visit me, esteemed master Burakh. I have a matter of utmost importance to discuss with you. It concerns the fate of a man who became your guardian when everyone turned away from you. It concerns Vlad Olgimsky.
Master Burakh. The title made Artemiy's skin crawl.
What happened to him?
The merciless Aglaya Lilich, having opened up the Apiary that was previously sealed by Olgimsky, uncovered a number of curious facts that concerned this matter. Having questioned Vlad Sr., she extracted from him a full confession of his guilt... However...
Hold on a second, Georgiy. Guilt? What is he guilty of?
Well, he's - supposedly, if you'll allow me to get ahead of myself here guilty of issuing the order that was used as an excuse to blockade the Apiary, since he knew that the disease was already spreading among those of the Order. He put his hopes on the natural affinities and stamina of the Order and left them to fight the battle with the disease on their own...
The result of this decision was visible to Artemiy the day before yesterday mass death, hunger and strife. The Order was looking for someone to blame, and rightly so. If Vlad Sr. was responsible, then he would surely feel their ire soon...
Is that so?
Well consider the unstable character of your people. Olgimsky family was ruled by a desire to save the Town from a panicked, raving mob of infected people... I'd say that it would be perfectly understandable if they revealed their decision, as well as the reason for it. Simon's death, however, ensured that doing so was impossible...
Simon was the de-facto patriarch of the Town, and if Vlad Sr. would have his support, then the Order would be forced to accept his blockade without any dissent. Once Simon was dead, accepting the responsibility for the blockade would be tantamount to suicide and that was precisely what Vlad Sr. did today.
Well this seems fair. Why am I here, exactly?
The truth of it all lies in the fact that the catastrophic crime that led to the death of thousands of people was committed not out of well-minded calculation, but out of indecision. The presence of the disease in the Apiary was also being hidden for the longest time and it was, too, hidden out of indecision that is so typical of the... young people...
Young people? What are you talking about?
Here we go again with the grandiose speeches that only get to their point in the most roundabout and pompous ways...
Exactly! It is Vlad Jr., not Vlad Sr., who is guilty of this crime! He gave the order at his own peril and he didn't inform his father right away. It was already too late when he did, but my honourable kinsman and rival took his son's sin upon himself.
So he did what am I supposed to do about it?
Inform the commandant about it or perhaps, his wife. You weren't quite friendly with Alexander, were you? If you don't, then I'm afraid that the Inquisitor will give the order to execute Vlad Sr.
Why can't you do all that yourself, exactly?
Why? Well, because the Kains are trusted even less than Burakhs in Saburovs' home especially now that Katherine has felt the... strong feelings that you evoke in the harsh Inquisitor... You have made an exceedingly strong impression on her yesterday, and Maria felt it...
Huh, is that right?
This was exceedingly creepy, of course. There was zero privacy in this Town Artemiy's every move was tracked and observed through a variety of means.
Of course. So will you help your... patron? Or, should I say, your friend in need?
Good now Georgiy was trying to guilt trip Artemiy as well. He will look into this, though not for Georgiy...
Yes I'll try and take care of this...
The Son is not responsible for the Father
The real culprit in the great strife of the Order has been found. Georgiy is asking me to report about this misunderstanding to the Commandant. It's not particularly desirable to try and get into the Wolf's mouth, even if all the teeth are ripped out of it... I should first talk to the she-wolf...
Artemiy, however, was very much interested in what Vlad Jr. had to say for himself. That and the fact that there was still the book from the tunnels to be returned meant that Artemiy headed straight towards Vlad Jr.'s hideout near the station.
It was obvious that Georgiy had some sort of angle in this whole affair, but what exactly was it? The death of the patriarch of an opposing family would benefit him greatly, so why exactly did he object to it? It wasn't the goodness of his heart, of course, so what was it?
Artemiy took a look at the building where Vlad Jr. was hiding out and the station towering above it. It was almost as if there were a visual metaphor here of some sort, though Artemiy couldn't quite put his finger on it... Truth be told, the Town was full of them somewhere, a designer was clearly having a field day with all sorts metaphors of various shapes and depth... Unfortunately for him, Artemiy was much more liable to punch the smarmy git in the stomach and wander off rather than try and discern all the vacuous meanings behind them.
There was a hint of impatience on Vlad Jr.'s face he was clearly expecting Artemiy to come back much sooner than he did. Still, better late than never.
That's quite an unpleasant story with the well, I must say...
Artemiy would give Vlad the book first.
Is this what you were looking for?
Is that all that you found down there?
Well, there were a bunch of scoundrels down there, as well. I've barely made it out...
I've promised to reward you and I'm going to keep my word.
Under the Earth
Even Vlad jr. managed to make his way under the Earth. Is that supposed to be a sort of a parody of what I'm doing? He, too, found life down there within these capillaries lives some sort of a beast and, now, some foreign bodies took residence there. Unfortunately for them, the blood was flowing quite richly down there.... That was also where the ancient knowledge of the Order was buried until I dragged it out into the light. It all fits... Huh... Funny, that...
Good thank you. Now, let's talk about the Apiary.
Vlad Jr.'s expression immediately changed from gratefulness to a strange sort of teenage-like defiance.
Oh, is that how it is? What did they tell you?
Well, they told me that it's your fault.
I have no right to speak of this. Leave it alone! It's our, familial, business!
Well, it's quite likely that the worms, for whose deaths in the Apiary you are responsible, will be my family soon!
What? What are you talking about? Are you going on about your... rites? Your father's legacy? Are you aiming for the Elder's spot? Burakhs are going to have their revenge, is that it?
Well, that is going to be when we talk. That is when the Olgimsky family whoever is going to be the patriarch at that point will explain themselves before you. Until then, the topic is closed.
Well you won't be waiting for long, I can tell you that much.
What an annoying, prideful little scamp. Here he is, his life potentially hanging in the balance and his father sacrificing himself for his sake and he decides that the best course of action is to be a snide asshole. It isn't to be helped, sure, but it's rather annoying nonetheless. Artemiy went on to see Alexander Saburov's wife, Katherine, to try and decide what to do in this situation.
If there was a way to save Vlad Sr. without risking the Jr.'s life, then Artemiy would be likely to take it. However, the possibility of that seemed to be farther and farther. Vlad Sr.'s confession made things especially problematic, and the Order would surely demand the price to be paid in blood.
On the way to Saburovs' mansion, Artemiy passed by the Olgimsky's residence. The entrance to Vlad Sr.'s section was closed. Vlad Sr.'s voice in this matter would be valuable, but he wasn't there to provide it.
Artemiy did imagine, though, that Vlad Sr. would tell him to leave the matter alone. If there was anyone more prideful than Vlad Jr., it was Vlad Sr. If this was the course that he decided to take, then Artemiy wouldn't be able to dissuade him.
The house seemed normal and, judging by the fact that Alexander Saburov was still spoken of by Georgiy as being alive, the powders worked. Good. Artemiy proceeded to Katherine's section.
The woman looked as sickly and malevolent as she did a week ago.
I can feel this wet smell once again... The smell of blood...
Here they go again with the Ripper nonsense Artemiy could do nothing but to roll his eyes... If he had a penny for every time someone accused him of being a murderer... That's not a good thing, come to think of it...
Georgiy has asked to inform the commandant that Vlad Sr. is not guilty of any wrongdoing in the matter of the Apiary. It was his son's fault.
My husband does not decide anything anymore... It is the Order's decision. If either of the Olgimsky will come there to receive judgment, then the Order will cast their judgment in full. Mother Superiour will say her... little... word and then, there will be no salvation from her.
Either of the Olgimsky? What do you mean?
Yes... they want a sacrifice... as an atonement. They don't care whether it's the father or the son... It's no difference to them... A family is a single body to them... Cut of a thief's left hand or the right it's all the same... To Georgiy, however, it is not all the same! You don't see his calculation it's all politics here...
Politics? Where do the politics come in here? Unless...
A man will come and go the family will remain. Who rules a family is of utmost importance... Georgiy is leaving and he's paving the way for his inheritors... Terrible Maria and Khan... He does not need a young, smart, energetic man at the head of the Olgimsky family...
Do you mean to say that Vlad Sr. is much more agreeable? That doesn't seem to be true!
He will die soon... Even if he doesn't, he is too compromised by this story... Oh, the calculation here is cunning indeed! A strike from multiple directions at once aimed at my husband, too... He did send you to my husband, too, didn't he? He'll lay the blame for it all on him, he surely will... Oh, Georgiy, Georgiy... No this is the sort of intrigue that is the domain of Simon!
Katherine was implying something quite terrible here, but Artemiy wasn't in the position to recognize it and neither did he have the knowledge to do so.
He did send me to you, you know. He didn't send me to Alexander.
Oh, do be kind and leave us alone... I've guessed his plan immediately... Go to Mother Superiour, let the Order devour whomever it wishes... None of us have long to live... It's all over... It's up to everyone to decide how they'll die...
The Son is not responsible for the Father
So Vlad Olgimsky went to Tychik's daughter for judgment... It's clear that he isn't the one responsible, though... The only thing that is left is to decide whether to tell her the truth... What will be the ending of this little story?
Vlad Sr., however dour a man he was, has helped Artemiy immensely. Without him, Artemiy would be dead. Vlad Sr.'s patronage protected him until he was able to stand on his own two feet. The value of truth was very well-known to Artemiy, too...
On the other hand, Katherine's words could be true. Georgiy if that is Georgiy at all could very well be making a play, with Artemiy being a pawn in his hands. It wouldn't matter if Artemiy would stay true to himself, but Artemiy was getting rather sick of Kains trying to use him as a plaything in their bizarre intrigues.
Katherine was also right about one thing Vlad Jr. was central to the Olgimsky family's retaining of power. If Vlad Jr. were to die for this, sooner or later the family would fall. Young Kapella would be unable to fill the void, and the highly traditionalist people would not accept it. Saving Vlad Jr., however, would mean lying. Lying to the Order and, more importantly, lying to himself.
It's funny Vlad Jr. is also Dankovskiy's adherent, isn't he? These things have a funny way of turning out...
Hah... What? indeed...
Have you summoned the one who locked you all up to answer for his crimes?
...I have! Aren't you the sly one!
Mother what sort of punishment expects this man?
A terrible sort of punishment... I'll give him over to the Worms and the Butchers. They'll take him to the room that I'm not allowed into... They'll decide who will be left with him in there... After they leave, he won't be there anymore, while those who were left in there with him will go to sleep for three days.
Good. Yeah. Thanks... That sort of imagery is helpful when one tries to decide who gets to live and who gets to die...
So what they're going to devour him, is that it?
I'm telling you I'm not allowed in there!
Do you know who this culprit really is?
No... I don't know for sure, but I'm thinking that it's Vlad Sr.!
Do you want to know for sure?
This was a major decision and, more importantly, this was the first real choice that Artemiy had. It was the first choice that carried actual consequences. It was a choice that Artemiy could not make alone.